Fighting odds: Once mango trader now Isro chairman

Published Jan 12, 2018, 7:24 am IST
Updated Jan 12, 2018, 7:47 am IST
Want to develop satellites with societal applications: Sivan
Dr K. Sivan
 Dr K. Sivan

CHENNAI: K.Sivan, the newly appointed chairman of prestigious Indian Space Research Organisation had to overcome several challenges even before finishing his school as he hailed from the very poor family from Sarakkalvilai near Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district.

His brother stopped his education to enable him to continue his higher studies and Mr.Sivan himself as a class 9 student sold mangoes in the nearby market to pay his school fees.


A day after his appointment as Isro chairman, the renowned rocket scientist has shared his difficult childhood and student days in an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle on Thursday.

“I came from a very poor family. My elder brother stopped his education to enable me to pursue higher studies. My father Kailasa Vadivu who was a farmer used to sell Mangoes in a market. I used to carry mangoes on a bicycle to the market and sell it to pay my tuition fees,” he recollected about his early child hood days.

He did his primary schooling at government elementary schools in Sarakkalvilai and then went to high school near his village. After graduating from Hindu College in Nagercoil he moved to Madras Institute of Technology for B.Tech in Aeronautical engineering.

“I pursued my higher studies with the scholarships. My father sold some of our family lands to fund my education. my father Kailasa Vadivu and mother Chellam is no more,” he said.

In MIT, professors like S.Narasimman, N.S. Venkatraman, A.Nagarajan, R.Dhanaraj and K.Jayaraman inspired and guided him. Unfortunately, some of his professors are no more.

We were known as thrimoorthies in the college as three of us were bearing the names of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.

His colleagues are pointing out that he is an expert in flight trajectory guidance and control software. “I wrote software called Sitara which was used in the launch vehicles to control the rocket’s trajectory,” Mr.Sivan said. This software earned him fame within the space organisation.

After the failure of GSLV rocket with an indigenous cryogenic engine, he was handed over the responsibility to correct the errors in the engine. “The success of GSLV rocket with an indigenous cryogenic engine was a significant milestone. Our team work has made it possible the success,” he added.

He has also helmed the project team which is developing reusable launch vehicles before becoming the director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. He also wrote a book on the integrated design of space transportation system jointly with another famous scientist and former director of VSSC B.N.Suresh. When asked about his vision for the space organization Mr.Sivan said, “Many future missions were already decided and we want to complete those missions.” “I want to develop satellites with more societal applications,” he said.

TN leaders congratulate new Isro chief Sivan
Congratulations poured in for Isro’s new chief K. Sivan from Tamil Nadu's political leaders on Thursday. Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Opposition leader M. K. Stalin and PMK chief S. Ramadoss wished Sivan on his new role.

Sivan, who hails from Kanyakumari district, was on Wednesday appointed as chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).

 In his message sent to the eminent scientist, Palaniswami said it is a matter of pride for Tamil Nadu that “a person from our state has attained such a high position through ability and dint of hard work.”

“It is a fitting recognition of your long and distinguished career in space research. On behalf of the people and Government of Tamil Nadu, I congratulate you on your elevation and wish you all success in your new position,” the Chief Minister said in his message. 

In a message posted on his Twitter page, Stalin wished Sivan “extraordinary success in his efforts to take our nation's space establishment to further heights.”

In a release, Ramadoss said it was proud moment for Tamil Nadu since a person from the state will now head Isro. 

Since he will head the Isro, Sivan should take steps to announce Mahendragiri Research Centre as a standalone research institute and set up a launch pad at Kulasekarapattinam.